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How Women Resist

Whenever people are abused, they do many things to oppose the abuse and to keep their dignity and their self-respect. This is called resistance.


The resistance might include not doing what the perpetrator wants them to do, standing up against, and trying to stop or prevent violence, disrespect, or oppression. Imagining a better life may also be a way that victims resist abuse.


Many people believe victims passively accept violence, and lack self-esteem, assertiveness, or boundaries. Unfortunately, this leads people to have an incorrect, stereotyped, negative view of victims.

Resistance is often not obvious

Abuse can be very dangerous, so usually victims resist it in ways that are not obvious. Others probably will not even notice the resistance so they assume that victims are “passive” and “they do not do enough to stand up for themselves.” In fact, victims actively resist violence, and in real life, the so-called “passive” victim does not exist.


For instance, some women will resist their partner’s abuse by leaving the house. Knowing this, some men will try to stop this resistance by taking shoes, money, bankcards and car keys. Others might pull the phone out of the wall to prevent their partner from calling for help.

Abuse undermines resistance

The fact that perpetrators make plans to stop victims from resisting indicates that their abuse is deliberate. Perpetrators also make decisions about how they will be abusive. For example, some men think it is “wrong to hit a woman”, but they will push, grab and verbally abuse their partners.


Much attention is focused on trying to understand the reasons people are abusive. For example, it has been suggested that perhaps people are abusive because they themselves were abused as children, or they have mental health disorders. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to excusing perpetrators from responsibility for their behavior.


In fact, it is our experience in working with perpetrators that they are in control of their actions, and that they make deliberate choices about their abusive behavior. We believe perpetrators can, at any point in time, choose to change and to behave respectfully towards others.


We have found it is empowering for victims to think about what they did to oppose mistreatment. Victims have responded by saying, “I knew I was not weak,” and “I feel more capable now to deal with difficult situations I may encounter.” Some women have found that examining their resistance to violence has helped them to resolve their feelings of being “damaged” and/or somehow responsible for the abuse.


Want to learn more about resisting abuse?
Take a look at our publication Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships.

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